Gunsuit Guardians is an arcade shooter combat with roguelike elements by solo developer Matt Glanville and is out on Steam early access. Getting the obvious out of the way; yes, it’s a “Vampire Survivors clone” – but that’s not a bad thing. Without “clones” we wouldn’t have any games to speak of. What’s important is that they mix up the theme and mechanics enough to make it an enjoyable new experience and Gunsuit Guardians does that well enough, certainly enough to warrant the tiny entry price of AUD4.50 if you like the bullet-hell Vampire Survivors gameplay.
If you’ve played Vampire Survivors, you know basically everything you need to know. You start weak and are expected to die fairly quickly at low-level waves as you slowly build up gold to upgrade your character and unlock new weapons and exosuits by completing challenges. Each wave gets harder with new models of enemies, with a boss every few waves that takes a lot of killing. There are supply drops and health pickups, but new is that the upgrades you pick up aren’t the same as the ones you choose while levelling. They are a separate “artifact” system with unique benefits that can help make your build, but if you base your build around them, you’re likely to be unlucky. There is a substantial pool of them, but it’s always nice when you luck out and get 4x +20% laser damage artifacts on your laser build.
The pacing of the game is reasonable. As always in games like this it can feel fast at times and slow at times, or blazingly fast after some new upgrades with a good build or painfully slow with a terrible build. Every game makes you stronger as you get gold to unlock new upgrades, weapons, or exosuits and you can freely respec the upgrades at any time, but your purchases of exosuits and weapons are non-refundable. This can be a little annoying when you want to see what the new one does after you unlock it and click to select it but that just buys it. You get the info by mousing over it and then hitting tab to see the special abilities or other additional information.
The combat is fun and an addition over Vampire Survivors that works well is optional weapon auto-targeting with seamless manual targeting when desired. The guns are satisfying but as always more is always better – I am looking forward to more being added over time. Another new addition is the special ability of which you can choose one at game start which has a moderate cooldown and can influence your gameplay nicely. The last major change is the addition of boost – a dodge basically – to move you around quickly with a short cooldown. These all add up to make the game more of a bullet-hell than a Vampire Survivors clone which appeals to me. I’ve always enjoyed that genre too.
The game definitely needs more content to get more than a few hours out of it. The most important is more exosuits and weapons, the primary ways to modify your gameplay, but more artifacts would probably be good too. Though this runs the risk of diluting the pool of options too much to risk attempting to build around them which currently *is* possible. Lastly, more enemy types that do different things would be good, especially bosses. The current single boss type with a charge is not enough for long-term gameplay. A different type of boss per stage would work, as would random bosses for each boss wave, there are a few options to manage it. The addition of environmental hazards was nice but more than the single one that exists currently would be good too, perhaps even ones that are beneficial, or both good and bad.
Personally, I’d also like a little more clarity on the battlefield as the mobs are much harder to distinguish when in large clusters than is ideal. That could just be artistic style, but I don’t think gameplay should be sacrificed for it. Disabling damage numbers can help but it’s nice seeing those number explosions so it would be ideal to be able to keep them. The developer has already responded quickly to player input by allowing adjustment of the reticle which bodes well for the future of the game. I hope some time is put into improving clarity, especially as more stuff is added over time which will only reduce it.
If you’ve seen anything that makes you think “huh, that might be fun” – just get the game, it’s AUD4.50. You could buy 20 games like this for the price of one AAA and I’m confident you’d get more hours of enjoyment – along with supporting indie developers which (In my opinion) is important in its own right. The game is still in early access, so if you’re unsure whether it will receive continued support, that’s a valid concern to have and may be enough of a reason to wait. I enjoyed my time with Gunsuit Guardians and will definitely dip in occasionally to try new additions or just whenever I feel like a quick bullet-hell romp with lasers, bullets and exosuits.
This early access review utilised a key provided by the developer and Gunsuit Guardians is available now on Steam early access.